Ship carrying rocket parts hits Kentucky bridge, causing partial collapse

Story highlights

  • Authorities are trying to reinforce part of a bridge in southwestern Kentucky
  • A 312-foot ship carrying Air Force and NASA rocket parts hit the bridge
  • Part of the highway that went over the bridge has been closed
  • There are no indications of injuries or cars falling into the water
Coast Guard crews were among those working Friday to reinforce a southwestern Kentucky bridge that partially collapsed after being hit by a 312-foot cargo ship.
The Delta Mariner -- which was transporting rocket parts, eventually destined for Cape Canaveral in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California -- struck the Eggner Ferry Bridge around 8:15 p.m. CT (9:15 p.m. ET) on Thursday, said the United Launch Alliance, whose material was on the ship.
U.S. Highway 68 and Kentucky Highway 80 pass over the bridge.
The impact caused the structure's "main truss span" to collapse on top of the barge, Kentucky's transportation department said Thursday in a press release.
Soon thereafter, search teams in boats from the Aurora Fire Department and Marshall County Rescue Squad examined the area and saw no indication that vehicles had subsequently fallen into the water, according to the state.
On Friday, the Coast Guard issued its own statement reporting that there were no injuries due to the incident.
Yet the collapse did prompt authorities to shut portions of the highway, from mile marker 41 to 43 on both sides of the bridge, "until it has been deemed safe to transit," according to the Coast Guard.
"It's extremely fortunate that no one was hurt in the collapse," said Cmdr. Claudia Gelzer, the top officer for the Paducah, Kentucky-based Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit. "Our priority now is to ensure continued safety on the waterway and oversee the safe salvage of the cargo ship."
Besides the Coast Guard and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Army Corps of Engineers and National Transportation Safety Board are playing a role in this effort.
Roughly 2,800 vehicles travel daily over the bridge -- which spans a body of water known as Kentucky Lake, created when part of the Tennessee River was "impounded" in 1943 -- according to the state. The area is known as Land Between the Lakes.
Preparation work had begun, prior to this week's incident, to replace the span and a nearby one over Lake Barkley.
According to United Launch Alliance, the ship was carrying an Atlas booster and Centaur upper stage for an Air Force launch set for April and an inter-stage adapter for NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission scheduled for an August launch. The cargo was not damaged.
The company, which is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, said "there is no scheduled impact to either launch date expected at this point."